What is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

Jill Lattanzio lived a full and active life. She was an avid runner throughout high school and a Division I athlete at Mount St. Mary’s University. Her laugh was infectious, and she was often the first to break into song and dance. She enjoyed visiting her favorite cities, Philadelphia and New York City, with her husband and children and tried to spend as much time as possible on the Jersey shore during the summers. A perfect day for Jill was spent with Matthew and their daughters Lanie and Lilli on their boat, with sunshine on her face and sea air in her lungs.

Sadly, in 2019, Jill was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s at 45 years old. Hers was the youngest Alzheimer’s diagnosis ever observed at Jefferson Hospital, where Jill worked as a Postpartum RN.

Like many families that have experienced the devastating illness, the Lattanzio’s were met with much confusion, heartbreak, and reluctance to accept its effect on their family. Alzheimer’s is a disease with no cure. Each day, families lose more and more of their loved ones.

Jill died at the age of 49 on November 13, 2021, leaving behind her husband and two young kids.

What is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It impacts your memory, thought processes, and behavior. It often progresses to the point that it interferes with everyday activities and functions. Although most people with Alzheimer’s are in their 60s and 70s, the illness may develop at any age. 

When Alzheimer’s disease strikes someone under the age of 65, it is referred to as early-onset (or younger-onset) Alzheimer’s disease. The early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease affects a very small percentage of individuals. When the illness strikes, many of them are in their forties and fifties.

What Causes Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

Researchers aren’t certain what triggers Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are suspicions that two proteins cause nerve cell damage and death. Plaques are formed when fragments of one protein, beta-amyloid, accumulate. Twisted fibers of a protein called ‘tau’ are called tangles. 

Plaques and tangles develop in almost everyone as they age. However, people who have Alzheimer’s disease develop many, many more. Initially, these plaques and tangles cause harm to the brain’s memory centers. They gradually influence more parts of the brain. Experts are unsure why some individuals produce so many plaques and tangles, or how they spread and cause damage.

Jill Lattanzio Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease - Nurse Partners

What are the Risks for Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

At this time, the only recognized risk factor is a family history of the illness.

What are the Symptoms of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

The symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer disease are similar to those of other types of Alzheimer’s disease in most people.

Early Signs and Symptoms:

  • Forgetting important information, especially newly acquired information or key dates
  • Repeatedly requesting the same information
  • Trouble with simple things like paying bills or following a favorite recipe
  • Losing sight of the date or time of year
  • Struggling to make sense of where you are and how you got there
  • Difficulties with depth perception or other vision issues
  • Difficulties joining discussions or finding the correct term for things
  • Misplacing items and being unable to re-track steps to locate them
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social situations
  • Mood and personality changes

Later Symptoms Include:

  • Excessive mood swings and behavioral changes
  • Increasing perplexity regarding time, location, and life events
  • Fears about friends, family, or caregivers
  • Difficulties speaking, swallowing, or walking
  • Profound memory loss

How is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

The current diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is based on identifying the indications mentioned above of mental decline. A healthcare practitioner will next perform a few tests to identify Alzheimer’s disease.

First, a healthcare professional will inquire about the individual’s medical history before cognitive tests for memory, problem-solving, and other mental abilities. Depending on the findings of the office-based cognitive testing, further testing with a neuropsychologist may be recommended. Urine, blood and spinal fluid may also be tested by the physician and brain imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans. These allow the healthcare professionals to take a closer look at brain tissue to determine the extent of the damage.

Researchers expect that further study on biomarkers will help researchers to identify the condition more quickly. Biomarkers are proteins or other indicators found in the body that accurately signal the progression of a disease.

How is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?

There is presently no cure for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, healthcare providers have been effective in assisting patients in maintaining their mental function, controlling behavior, and slowing disease progression.

Medicines are utilized to assist individuals in maintaining their mental function. They are as follows:

  • Donepezil
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine
  • Memantine

The results have been mixed, but some medications seem to assist patients with their symptoms for a few months to a few years.

Physical activity, cardiovascular and diabetic medicines, antioxidants, and cognitive training are other treatments that may help delay the progression of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Many studies are now underway in this area, and researchers are discovering new things about Alzheimer’s disease daily.

Can Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?

The prevention of Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear. Some data has shown that detecting the condition early might result in better treatment choices. It’s essential to keep an eye out for any of the following early warning symptoms and consult your physician right away if you detect any.

Facing Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging condition to deal with. Having a positive attitude and keeping as busy and cognitively engaged as possible is important.

It’s also crucial to remember that you are not alone. Don’t be scared to seek a support group if you believe it may be beneficial or rely on your friends and relatives as much as possible.

It’s essential to consider the future while the disease is still in its early stages. This can involve financial planning, collaborating with employers on existing and possible employment obligations, clarifying health insurance coverage, and gathering essential documents in case your health worsens.

Although there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s, you may make the most of a poor situation by keeping your body and mind as healthy as possible. This might involve eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol use, and adopting stress-reduction strategies.

Nurse Care in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware

Counties

We understand these are difficult times, and it can be even more trying for our loved ones experiencing memory disorders.

NursePartners creates care teams to introduce stability into the lives of older adults. All teams are managed by a certified dementia practitioner and registered nurse. Care is provided right at home or wherever home may be. 

Want to know more about Alzheimer’s disease or how we can help you? 

Give us a call today at 610-323-9800. We are all in this together.

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